April 14, 2011

Australian Officials Look to Brazil for Expertise in Ethanol Prod.

Representatives from the Australian government recently visited the headquarters of UNICA in Sao Paulo (Union of Sugarcane Industries) to learn more about the sugarcane/ethanol industries in Brazil. They were particularly interested in techniques on how to produce cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane residue.

The Australian government has mandated the mixture of ethanol in gasoline as part of their overall goal to develop an economy based on renewable low-carbon based fuel and ethanol is the primary renewable fuel produced in Australia.

Australia is also a large sugarcane producer like Brazil, but unlike Brazil, it does not have an extensive area of available land that could be used for sugarcane expansion. One of the primary ways that Australia could increase ethanol production would be through the production of cellulosic ethanol produced from sugarcane residue. In Brazil, most of the sugarcane residue (what's left over after the juice is extracted) is burned to produce electricity for the sugar mill and to sell back into the electrical grid, but Brazil has increased their research efforts on how to convert some of the sugarcane residue into cellulosic ethanol.

The use of sugarcane residue to produce cellulosic ethanol would be ideal because an entirely new industry would not have to be developed to produce the cellulosic ethanol. The source material, which is the sugarcane residue, is readily available and the infrastructure for producing and distributing the ethanol is already in existence.